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What every New York patient should know about CLASBIs

Central line-associated bloodstream infections are a serious condition that may develop if health care providers fail to follow the proper safety protocols.

People in the five boroughs, and throughout New York, regularly seek medical treatment. This may be due to a medical emergency, to monitor an ongoing condition or for a number of other reasons. When patients go to receive treatment, they rarely expect that doctor negligence or errors may cause them worsened medical conditions or even death. However, medical mistakes are common, and often lead to a range of ailments, including central line-associated bloodstream infections.

What are central line-associated bloodstream infections?

Central lines are tubes that are placed into large veins to withdraw blood, administer medications, give fluids or monitor patients' conditions. They are often inserted in the arm, neck, chest or groin area. Unlike the more common intravenous catheters, these lines are generally inserted deeper into a person's body and may be kept in for longer periods of time.

Sometimes, microorganisms, such as bacteria or fungi, may enter the blood through central lines. This may lead to a central line-associated bloodstream infection, or CLASBI. According to the New York Department of Health, there were 546 CLASBIs reported in intensive care units across the state in 2014. There were an additional 348 CLASBIs reported in other medical wards during that same year.

Common CLASBI symptoms

People who develop CLASBIs may experience a range of symptoms. In some cases, they may become ill and feel nauseous or vomit. Patients may also have fevers , chills or a fast heart rate as a result of CLASBIs. Additionally, these types of infections may cause redness, swelling or tenderness in the area around where the catheter is inserted. There may also be drainage from the catheter site.

CLASBIs may cause worsened medical conditions for some patients. For this reason, they may be particularly hazardous for those who are already suffering from serious ailments. In some cases, CLASBIs may cause death.

How can CLASBIs be prevented?

If proper precautions are used, CLASBIs are largely preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the steps health care professionals can take to help ensure their patients' safety include the following:

• Using proper hand hygiene techniques before inserting or touching central lines

• Employing the appropriate aseptic techniques

• Utilizing sterile barrier precautions

• Checking central lines daily

Furthermore, medical providers should replace dressings if they become damp, dirty or dislodged. Central lines should be removed when they are no longer necessary. Failure to report problems could allow a CLASBI to develop or worsen.

Patients can also do things to avoid contracting CLASBIs. As much as possible, people should avoid touching their central lines, specifically near the insertion site. They should also check to ensure that health care professionals have washed their hands before they touch their central lines. If patients notice that their dressings are wet, soiled or dislodged, they should notify their medical providers.

Seeking legal guidance

When New Yorkers contract CLASBIs, they may require additional or prolonged medical treatment. This may lead to unexpected medical expenses and, in some cases, lost income while they recover. In some cases, however, negligent medical professionals may be held liable for their damages. Therefore, those who have developed a CLASBI may benefit from consulting with an attorney to learn whether their condition might have been prevented.

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